The drought and growing public acceptance have turned a process once derided as “toilet to tap” into something politically palatable, and water officials across San Diego County are planning to make reused wastewater drinkable and widespread within a matter of years.
In the city, a $2.85 billion multi-part project, branded Pure Water, is hoping to use wastewater to start producing 30 million gallons a day of drinkable water within the next six years. That’s two years sooner and twice as much water as envisioned just months ago.
“The drought has definitely pushed this project,” said John Helminski, the assistant director of the city of San Diego’s water department. “The fact that we don’t know how long the drought will last. We’re already in the fourth year of drought – if we continue, it could get a lot worse than it is today.”
The city is not alone. The Padre Dam Municipal Water District in East County and a separate group of North County water agencies are each pursuing major projects to recycle wastewater.
Some water utilities already operate separate “purple pipe” recycled water programs that recycle some wastewater – but only well enough to use for irrigation and certain industrial uses. The purple pipe water flows through separate pipes from our drinkable water. The treated wastewater-turned-drinking water is heavily treated and would flow through the same pipes to homes and offices as regular drinking water.
While the city is still looking to expand its purple pipe system, the Pure Water program has in some ways put that on a back burner. While purple pipe water is cheaper for customers, it can only be used for certain things, like irrigation. It also requires a separate pipeline running next to existing pipes for drinking water, which is expensive.
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Here's some nice science to think about. Prions will be recycled too.
Toilet to tap has not come to a public vote and wouldn't pass if it did.
People sound like stupid salesman for the toilet to tap program. They try to defend this vile crap with explanations, science, and claims of support. Oceans water is recycled by passing the water into the boiling hot crust and out again though thermal vents, purified from sin. What we really need is our complete water supply from desalinization and rain water.
I believe any scientist will tell you that ALL water is recycled - the only question is whether it is recycled by nature (evaporation that returns to earth as rainfall), or by manmade devices (which clean water and return it to the drinking water system).
Every city in the country that is located near a river or lake has been recycling water from their upstream neighbors for a long time.
Why this is controversial is due to the media and politicians using the toilet to tap descriptor.
I keep hearing all the time about not putting medicine down the toilet. It will pollute the environment. It has never been explained how it will be kept out of the recycled water.
There was just a scientific report a month ago that free standing water create bacteria. Putting water in a lake will not get rid of the recycled water bacteria. Just make it worse. Pollution going down a river is filters by the environment and the sun. Sitting in a lake is a lot different.
But forget the science facts. Now it look like it just a public relation game now.
Wish somebody would dig into the above statements and prove me wrong.
It’s ridiculous that we heavily subsidize “purple pipe”
infrastructure and water, artificially lowering the price for consumers who use
it to maintain artificially green landscapes that don’t belong in So Cal. Further
treating this water to potable quality makes the most fiscal and environmental
We should demand our cities do not invest in further expanding purple pipe infrastructure.
Thank you for the update. It would also be helpful to know where the funding for this project is coming from. Has a funding source been identified? How has it been expedited, to allow this project to move forward ahead of the previous timeline?
And has the City resolved the structural financial problems and overcharging of home water users that lead to previous violations of the Clean Water Act? These violations were outlined here: http://www.yourpublicmoney.com/data/data/kroll_san_diego/07violationswastewater.pdf
The "Kroll Report" of 2006 looked at the chronic underfunding of the pension, but also found that the City's mismanagement of various water grants, revolving loans and other funds violated state and federal law.
It would be a service to readers for you or another reporter to investigate if these known issues have been addressed by the Mayor's office, to prevent further abuse of public funding, and if industrial users are finally paying their fair share as the laws intended- and the city ignored.
In a nutshell: San Diego has consistently demonstrated that water actually can flow uphill, so long as its towards money.
Only in California can removing excrement, disease, and God knows what else from toilet water be considered easier/cheaper/safer than removing salt from sea water.
@Mike Delahunt Actually, desalination isn't easier/cheaper/safer than recycled because it's not just salt that's being removed, and the energy cost is greater.
We should be doing both.
Toilet-to-Tap VOSD? Really? Once again you embarrass yourselves with a headline. That was a tagline created by opponents to create populist ire.
@Chris Brewster Now that VoSD has changed the headline, I'll remove my objection. But It's a shame that VoSD doesn't give more thought to what is essentially the first impression of an article. The rest of this one is pretty good.
@Chris Brewster Some of us have come to shrug off, or even embrace, the once-loaded phrase. Once people understand the purity and safety of the water (and taste it), T-to-T loses its shock value and just becomes a commonplace descriptor.
Perhaps so for those in the know. Then there are the rest of the general public who shun recycling because of gross and inaccurate phrases.The ubiquity of "drinking water" delivery companies demonstrates that many are afraid to drink the water in its current form. (I'm not.) I think educating and warming the general public to the scientific realities of recycling requires that responsible media lead the way in terms of accuracy.
@Chris Brewster We decided it was indeed too loaded. There were a couple of reasons “toilet-to-tap” initially made sense to me: a) it’s been widely and recently used in other neutral news articles b) it may give readers a clearer sense of what we’re talking about than “recycled water,” which may mean two things, or “indirect potable reuse,” which may mean nothing; and c) the article itself points out the term is one of derision (which may also be an argument against using it in the headline). But, yeah, it was too sensitive to use in the headline and we changed it.
Thanks for this update, Ry.
One thing to note, is that we are pretty much already drinking toilet-to-tap water. I mean if 200 other municipalities along the Colorado have dumped their treated wastewater into it, by the time it gets to us, it's effectively the same thing.
Also, many parts of the country are already doing this process to increase their water supply. Places like Scottsdale, Texas, Virginia and Orange County all drink it. If you've been to Disneyland, you've drunk it.
This will be a great weight off San Diego's shoulders to get this project going sooner rather than later.